The man who takes his legs to market with a heavy heart

What happens to people who have survived bomb blasts, but have lost their limbs?

Sohail Khattak July 10, 2011


Amid the usual hustle bustle inside Empress Market it is easy to miss Abdur Rehman unless you look down.

He is seated on the floor with two legs at right angles. The right prosthetic is attached at the knee while the left joins at the thigh. He does not speak, but visitors automatically drop coins on to the cloth spread out before him.

“I am not a professional beggar,” the 40-year-old says. “I am doing this out of extreme necessity. I can’t work on these legs and I have two sons, a daughter and a wife to feed.”

Rehman, originally from Taru Jabba, Peshawar, lost his limbs and his right eye in a bomb explosion at Peshawar’s Saddar Bazaar while he was shopping. The Express Tribune estimates it took place 15 years ago based on Rehman’s information. There was a bomb blast in Peshawar on December 21, 1995 in which 37 people died and 49 others were injured.

“I don’t remember the date or year of the bomb blast but at that time the country’s law and order situation was good - one was not always thinking about bomb blasts,” he recalls. “It was in the afternoon and people were busy going about their work when the bomb went off. I don’t know what happened then, but ten days later I came to know that I had lost my legs and an eye.”

Rehman says he came to Karachi a month ago. He left his home town out of shame, as people there know him and he could not face begging in front of his own people.

“I left Peshawar because of Pakhtunwali,” he explains. “People thought very little of me. Here, I try to hide from people from my area. Sometimes I pray to Allah for death.”

Before the blast, he used to make ends meet as a construction worker or daily wager. That may not have been the most glamorous of jobs but at least it was good clean living. He considers begging to be the lowest possible way of making money. “Begging is very cheap way of getting money, even being a sex worker is better, but I cannot do anything else,” he says despairingly.

Rehman is waiting till his seven-year-old son will be old enough to work. Rehman lives in Keamari and uses a bus stand as shelter at night. Before falling asleep, he must remove the artificial legs to avoid the stumps from swelling up from the constriction. His family is back home. He left them with Rs9,000 which he borrowed from someone.

“Before coming to Karachi I used to borrow money from people, but I had no source of income so I could not pay back the debts. I ended up borrowing more to cover up previous dues,” he explained. He now collects about Rs200 a day and usually stays in the same place because of his cumbersome artificial legs. While the government does not offer him any support, even to fix his home that was damaged in the floods, he blames terrorists for his miseries.  “Those who do bomb blasts and suicide attacks that kill innocent people and disable them for the rest of their lives are not Muslims,” he declared vehemently. “They should come and see the destruction they cause. They should see the children who are now orphans and men like me who are living lives without honour.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2011.


Razi | 11 years ago | Reply

An extremely sad story. It is tragic that most of the time it is the poor who have been bearing the brunt of these acts of terrorism. While Abdur Rehman's tragedy may have resulted from a different source/agenda, I simply cannot comprehend as to how anyone seeking a shortcut to Paradise be able to achieve their goal by causing such tragic consequence for others.

Sher | 11 years ago | Reply

Very sad. This happened in 1995 when things were peaceful. But India has been working even since before 1995 trying to destabalise Pakistan. It was probably RAW, the Indian spy agency doing bomb blasts. And now with the weak civillian government in Pakistan, mahem to the innocent civillians continues. Now the only last hope for real democracy is Imran Khan other wise back to the safety and security of military rule.

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